Notwithstanding the long-drawn-out process of obtaining clearances to the multipurpose Polavaram project, debate over the efficacy of its design continues. The main contention of those opposing the rock-fill dam and reservoir is that taking up three barrages will be economic with less submersion and also without submersion in Orissa and Chattisgarh.
While the reservoir submerges 276 villages, the barrages flood only 72 and the cost of the three barrages at Polavaram, Bhadrachalam and Chatti Konta is put at Rs.7,000 crores, much less than the Rs.15,000-Rs.20,000-crore projected for the reservoir, environmentalist T. Shivaji Rao says quoting the design prepared by former Chief Engineer and irrigation expert T. Hanumantha Rao and retired irrigation engineers and environmentalists.
Besides, the estimates of the inflow flood vary and this would lead to a calamity flooding Rajahmundry and other areas, it was contended. While the State Government secured clearance for an inflow flood of 36 lakh cusecs from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Tribal Welfare, Central Water Commission and the Planning Commission. The Central Government revised it to 50 lakh cusecs after the 2006 flood. A report commissioned by the State Government from the National Institute of Hydrology in Roorkee in 1999 estimated it at 60 lakh cusecs. In view of the increased estimate of 50 lakh cusecs the Andhra Pradesh Government has proposed to construct embankments and mud dams in Orissa and Chattisgarh and submitted it to the MoEF. The ministry has asked the government to convince the two State Governments first.
Prof. Shivaji Rao finds fault with the report of the expert committee, appointed by the State Government that led it to favour the dam because of the view that 345 villages would be submerged if the three barrages (and not four as mentioned by the committee) were constructed and the cost would be Rs.19,108 crore.
While agreeing that the potential of the Godavari water should be harnessed by Polavaram project, he urges the Chief Minister to consult irrigation experts who were not part of the government, environmentalists, legal experts and leaders of all political parties to make the required changes.
Utilising 170 tmcft of water, the project aims at irrigating 7.2 lakh acres, divert 80 tmcft to the Krishna delta and 23 tmcft to Visakhapatnam and generate 960 mw of power.
Keywords: Community apathy